Gender inequality and violence

Women have less access to resources, work, education and power than men do, worldwide. This inequality – reinforced and condoned by norms and social structures – shapes sexual behaviour, violence and relationships in ways that undermine efforts to avoid, prevent and treat HIV. 


Gender-based violence is closely associated with inequality between men and women, and with HIV risk. Studies show that, for example:

  • experience of sexual or physical violence is linked with heightened risk of acquiring HIV;
  • partner violence and power differences in relationships are associated with an increased risk of incident HIV; and
  • a cluster of interconnected male behaviours increases women’s risk of HIV. Men who are violent toward their partners tend also to have multiple sexual partners, seek sex with sex-workers, drink large quantities of alcohol, have concurrent STDs, and practice anal sex.


The connections between gender inequality, violence and HIV were established some time ago, but have proven difficult to address. Most promising are interventions that factor in other drivers, linking empowerment with income for adolescent girls, for example, or violence with drinking norms and tavern regulation. 


Increasingly, the attitudes and socialization of men and boys are the subject of research and programming. What shapes male norms around gender and violence? And how can harmful male attitudes and behaviours be challenged and transformed? STRIVE partners follow these lines of enquiry.